According to a contract obtained by OCCRP, Aboubakar Hima, accused of stealing an estimated $240 million in corrupt arms deals in his native Niger, is up to his old tricks elsewhere.
Early this year, a Senegalese government agency agreed to buy $77 million in assault rifles, ammunition, and semi-automatic pistols.
They also bought other weapons from a small local firm that began a few months ago.
Notorious Weapons Broker Lands Secret Arms Deal in Senegal
The contract was unusual because the arms were purchased by the Environment Ministry rather than the military. However, the contract was out to bid, and the agreement was kept secret after it was signed, ostensibly due to Senegal's defence security law.
However, OCCRP knows about the deal and has a contract copy act through a collaboration with an Israeli newspaper.
The arms supplier, Lavie Commercial Brokers, was founded by Aboubakar Hima, a notorious West African businessman suspected of stealing millions from high arms deals in Nigeria and his native country of Niger.
Hima, also known as "Petit Boubé," is no stranger to controversy. Some of his millions are seized by authorities in the United States and South Africa in connection with illegal arms deals. He is also a suspect in Nigeria for his role in doing illegal arms business with the government.
OCCRP, in 2020, revealed that a Nigerien government audit discovered Hima had facilitated corrupt arms deals worth $240 million. Perhaps conscious of his bad records, Hima seeks to disguise his involvement in the contract of the Senegalese arms.
He is the only person whose name is on Lavie Commercial Brokers' registration documents. However, Israel-based David Benzaquen, the company's general manager, signed the contract on behalf of his firm.
Benzaquen established Lavie Strategies, an Israeli company licensed by Israel's Ministry of Defense to export weapons. He is also a former employee of Senegal's President's close friend, Israeli arms dealer Gabi Peretz.
Peretz is well-known for supplying military equipment to Central and West African countries. According to a news outlet, Peretz offered the Senegalese military a 300-million-euro credit line around when Hima's firm won the Senegal contract.
Peretz stated in an email response to questions that he had not had contact with Hima since around 2015 and had no knowledge of Lavie Commercial Brokers. Furthermore, he stated that Benzaquen didn't work for him since 2018 and that he was unaware of Lavie's contract in Senegal.
Senegal has been at odds with rebels in the southern Casamance region for decades. Guerilla groups in the forests have smuggled timber and cannabis to fund their operations, forcing Senegalese forest rangers, overseen by the Environment Ministry, to arm themselves.
Experts, however, questioned whether the Environment Ministry should have signed such a massive and secretive weapons contract.
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